Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has promised that his state’s public schools will remain open for the rest of the academic school year into 2021. Students who wish to can still attend virtually, but DeSantis emphasized that in-person learning has been found to be much more effective than virtual learning.
DeSantis said that closing schools to slow the spread of the virus doesn’t work and was a big mistake for other states to make.
“Closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” he said. “People who advocate closing schools for virus mitigation are effectively today’s flat-Earthers, they have no scientific or evidence support for their position.”
DeSantis made the announcement that Florida public schools will remain open on Nov. 30 at Boggy Creek Elementary School in Kissimmee, Florida.
In his first public appearance in almost a month, Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed Monday that Florida's schools will offer e-learning for the second half of the school year, but they must also remain open with an in-person option: https://t.co/xdJWOPwxqO pic.twitter.com/RwJ2IL0Dpp
— FOX 13 Tampa Bay (@FOX13News) November 30, 2020
The National Impact of School Closures
Most US K-12 schools and the majority of universities and colleges were closed by March and April for in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Globally, school closures have affected over 1.5 billion students who have been forced to stay home and learn remotely due to the ongoing pandemic.
According to a recent report from the NWEA, the closure of in-person classes has been particularly damaging to the academic test scores of Black and Hispanic students as well as students of all races who are below the poverty line.
The closures have also had overall negative effects on families struggling to find and pay for childcare in order to allow parents to work, particularly single parents and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
School closures are projected to lead to a lower number of students entering college and significant permanent negative effects, particularly an income drop for parents whose children can’t attend school in person and an overall drop in projected income for students who are forced to stop attending in-person classes and learn remotely.
Florida’s Fight Against COVID-19
DeSantis highlighted that Florida families will have the choice to attend school in person or from home, except for students who are failing or achieving poor results. These students will have their parents informed and be requested to come back to school in person if parents agree.
Many other states – particular in large cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia and more – have delayed plans to reopen schools due to the pandemic.
DeSantis argued that European countries who haven’t seen a rise in virus rates by letting kids go back to school show that it is the right decision and noted that various studies actually indicate disease rates may rise when kids are kept away from school and socialize in uncontrolled environments away from school.
Florida’s Commission of Education Richard Corcoran stood by DeSantis’ words, saying that critics who believe sending students back to school will be a “death march” are incorrect and are not supported by the available evidence.
Meanwhile, students are in for a potential break, since the Florida Education Association (FEA) teachers union has called on the state to delay standardized, difficult testing due to the stress and disruption of the pandemic.
Florida is currently hovering around one million confirmed cases of coronavirus and has 18,596 coronavirus-related deaths on record as of Dec. 1.
While acknowledging the serious nature of the virus, DeSantis said his state is doing relatively well in the fight against COVID-19, noting a drop in coronavirus-related hospitalizations, which were at 10,000 in the summer and now stand at 4,100.
“If you look at the per capita hospitalizations, we are not even close to the top of the stuff,” DeSantis said, adding “I think people should put it in perspective.”